Thompson Rivers University

Following her passion led to TRU

  Posted on: May 13, 2019

There was only one career path for Makenzie Vandertoolen: nursing. For the Utah-born young woman whose family moved to Canada when she was in high school, the only question was where would she study.

“I always knew that I wanted to work with people and work in a way that would help people. I found nursing was the best place to do that,” said Vandertoolen, who is valedictorian for the School of Nursing at this spring’s convocation.

Once she did some research, her educational path was also an easy choice.

“I chose TRU after I did a lot of research. I looked at all the different nursing programs I could find. I really looked into the practice hours, the reception that I’d gotten from different people that had been to them and had known people in the program,” she said.

“I found that TRU was the word that everyone was repeating and saying that their nursing school was the place to go and that their nurses got hired and their nurses performed the best. So I figured that was where I needed to be if I wanted to be a strong nurse.”

Vandertoolen threw herself into her program with a passion. She was the vice-president of the Nursing Undergraduate Society, she arranged events and fundraisers and student activities, networked and attended provincial and national nursing conferences with the Canadian Nursing Students’ Association.

“I have had so many great experiences at TRU. I really like getting involved and I always go way too hard in joining campaigns and committees.”

Students pull together

She and her classmates forged strong bonds as they went through their four-year program together. They leaned on each other for support and shared the ups and downs of their intensive studies.

“It’s a very unique university experience and I really enjoyed it,” said Vandertoolen.

Not only did the students depend on each other, but they leaned on faculty, too. And what they got back was solid support, she said.

“They are constantly there to answer questions and they’re supporting you through this. And it’s a crazy unique relationship you have with these instructors. They’re so willing to give you their knowledge and give you their support. As students we have this crazy schedule and we have no time for ourselves or a social life, so we really depend on each other,” she said.

“It’s just become a real sort of family because we are all going through this together and figuring it out as we go. I think that’s all of nursing, just figuring it out as we go. It’s been a great way to learn that skill and learn from the people around you and figure it out.”

She is already working in the field she has long aspired to; Vandertoolen was hired to work on a cardiac ward at Penticton Regional Hospital. It’s a place where she will eagerly soak up experience and on-the-job learning while she works toward the area of nursing that appeals to her most.

“I have always known that I really want to go into critical care nursing. I love the emergency department, that’s where I have spent most of my time. I have also worked in ICU and I really enjoyed it, so I have accepted a position as a new graduate nurse on a cardiac floor and I think that will be a good stepping stone to working in critical care and continue my education that way.”

Makenzie Vandertoolen, valedictorian School of Nursing 2019.

Makenzie Vandertoolen, valedictorian for the School of Nursing class of 2019.